DUBLIN, Ohio – Wendy’s announced it has upgraded its animal-welfare standards to improve treatment of chickens and pigs by the company’s suppliers.

The company recently endorsed the use of low atmospheric pressure systems (LAPS) to replace electric stunning of chickens. One of Wendy’s chicken suppliers, O.K. Foods Inc. in Ft. Smith, Ark, has installed LAPS. Wendy’s said it is the first QSR chain to endorse the LAPS.

“We’ve studied the LAPS system and agree that it’s a major improvement to industry practices,” said Dennis Hecker, head of Wendy’s Animal Welfare Council and senior vice president of Quality Assurance. “We encourage all chicken producers to embrace this practice.”

Wendy’s said it also is working with its US and Canadian pork suppliers to phase out sow gestation stalls. The company said it has given preferential buying to suppliers who adopt a plan to phase out the stalls since 2007.

“The company is now going further by requiring all of our US and Canadian suppliers to provide their plans to phase out the use of gestation stalls in their operations,” Hecker added.

Finally, all Wendy’s beef, poultry and pork suppliers in the US and Canada are regularly audited through announced and unannounced visits by trained inspectors, the company said. Nearly 1,200 audits have been conducted over the last 11 years. Wendy’s will no longer do business with suppliers who fail to meet the company’s animal-welfare standards.

“Wendy’s has a very effective auditing program to confirm animal-welfare standards are routinely followed throughout North America,” said renowned animal welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin, associate professor, Department of Animal Science, Colorado State Univ., and Meat&Poultry columnist. “I applaud their efforts to work with their suppliers to move away from gestation stalls, and adopt the LAPS system which will greatly improve the welfare of chickens.”

Wendy’s Animal Welfare Council meets regularly to review and improve company’s animal-welfare standards. Wendy’s collaborates with leading experts and the company’s suppliers to research, evaluate and implement advances in the science of animal handling and care.